Something I’ve seen over and over again are businesses that have modernized areas like IT, HR, and Finance…and yet have a sales organization that is following outdated practices that are costing them revenue. The problem is the visibility of it is lost somewhere between the front lines and the VP and C-Levels so the real negative impact is unknown.
Even organizations that seem to maintain market share, are doing so while concurrently preventing greater growth from the lost business that fell through the cracks unnoticed.
What are some examples?
In B2B sales, there are enterprise teams built around a model that generally includes inbound, outbound, marketing generated opportunities or leads, and then building and managing pipeline.
Many marketing-generated “leads” are created through a structured effort, you can see what happened in the process as they responded to content, and engaged in some way. But, are you able to see what happens to the leads your organization generates when they get to the live-engagement stage? Many organizations have literally zero visibility of what happens on the front lines in sales; yet this is where the greatest attrition in your pipeline occurs when it isn’t managed with some deliberate design.
It’s relatively easy to monitor a prospect’s journey with their digital interactions; you’ll see their score change/rise, you see them more frequently (or not) or responding to the things you would expect them to. You can gauge the topics they are interested in based on their behavior, and then feed them more of the things they are interested in. You can measure and assign a value to most actions prospects do with your content, and you can create messages designed for a very precise response. That is the part you do with more of a hands-off approach.
The breakdown is when it goes to the live sales rep phase of the journey.
The challenge is that the moment it goes to a rep, 5 things happen:
- Independent decisions made by reps on how to handle prospects, some reps may even be inexperienced and not have the depth of knowledge to know dynamics of early engagement
- Individual interpretations of the opportunity/non-opportunity
- Individual practices to engage. This is where management scratches their heads asking “why does Tracy connect with so many prospects and Steve is at a 50% lower conversion rate?” or “Why do we never have issues with Tom closing business but Kristina is constantly complaining about the leads?”
- Understanding the prospect’s environment is only as good as the knowledge base the rep has personally developed
- Follow-up is based on the workload of the rep and understanding of prospect behavior
Your best reps understand how to manage the above intuitively, you will see that in their results. But all reps don’t have these areas mastered or even understand what is going on from a “buyer psychology” standpoint and what their mindset should be at an early engagement stage.
Reps are often trained on the products and solutions they sell, but not HOW to engage with people in a way that makes a difference.
What this looks like in real-life:
- Many different approaches with what to say, how to engage, overall attitude about the prospect, understanding and interpretation of the prospect’s responses and behavior.
- Depending on the skills and confidence of the rep, the viability of the opportunity can appear more positive or negative.
- Engagement can be everything from sending a few emails, to a consistent effective approach that engages a very high percentage of prospects.
- Some opportunities need a well-informed resource that can quickly understand their environment and map the problems to the solution within their own environment. Inability to do that can leave a vendor out in the cold.
- Workload of active deals, or late stage deals, has a direct impact on developing newer relationships with prospects
This is just a slice of what is happening out there. Conversations aren’t documented, engagement varies depending on who does it, depending on the reps personal approach or assessment, they may or may not get priority. These major decisions are left to a stage of the journey that can be a total black box, that no one has visibility into.
At a time when every good lead matters, you have to make sure you are optimizing each interaction–digital or human.
One thing to remember, survival instincts kick in to blame the source. So you will ask a rep if certain leads were good, “how were the leads from the tradeshow?” and the reps that are great will correctly assess a source because they have invested in themselves to learn how to do the right thing. For the ones that haven’t, they will always say they are bad. Because if they say the leads were great, and they aren’t closing them, the problem is them…they are unable to accept that. So a better way to track down the real breakdowns is needed.
Taking a look under the hood to get an understanding of what is happening on your front lines is key to answering the question.
So what can you do?
- Find out what is actually happening. Get a sample of results from each team member using an apples-to-apples comparisons. The records, the discussions, the end dispositions–then compare.
- Have a true skills assessment of engagement and make sure everyone is equipped to have a high level of skills to engage.
- Address the behavioral aspects of sales vs. product knowledge and more mechanical content.
- Equip your team with resources that help them understand the background of leads they get, i.e. what were they responding to, who was targeted, the content the prospects saw, the source list, etc. That helps them to have a vantage point of what they get.
There’s much more to do in order to completely fine-tune this; but once reps understand the small things they do along the way make a difference is the first step.
This goes far beyond “social selling” in the sense it isn’t just understanding how to mine data in the public domain, but really becoming a professional at the undercurrents of engagement and rising above the noise of the high number of approaches prospects get daily.
When you equip your team to really understand how to read between the lines of engagement, then you will maximize return on all of your programs across the board and see increased ROI with all of your efforts. That is the modern sales organization at work!
About the Author
Mari Anne Vanella, is the CEO of The Vanella Group, Inc. From last 18 years as Founder/CEO of firm she is delivering teleprospect-based engagement & lead generation for enterprise tech like HP, SAP, Hitachi, Nokia, CA, etc. Producing “real” pipeline is the focus. Mari Anne is also an author of the best-selling, award-winning book “42 Rules of Cold Calling Executives” available on Amazon (Best Seller reaching #1 in category on Amazon) and other channels. Recently she was featured in 2017 Silicon100 and was also listed in Top 50 Women in Technology of 2017 in Martech Influencers.